Then I began my counselling. I see two counsellors. One at the hospital, that I see once a month, and the local bereavement counsellor who comes to my house about once a week. They made me realise that sadly this does happen more frequently than we all realise, and until it happens to you, you cannot understand how many people have suffered this immense pain. My counsellors have also helped me to understand the stages of grief, and through understanding these stages I can accept how I am feeling as normal, and experience the grief rather than question it. They have also given me really useful ways to work through these stages and I feel that I have them to thank for a lot of the strength I have now.
They have also helped me to understand that grief comes from a series of "losses". In my case, I have lost my son so quickly after I met him, but I have also lost a brother for William, I have lost those days of them playing together, our long walks as a family, I have lost those happy moments sharing my baby with my family and friends, I have lost the buying of beautiful baby clothes and I have lost the cuddles, and the cooing and the little smiles. It is every time I realise one of these "losses" that I experience the pain... sometimes, it is just the pain. Sometimes, it comes with anger that things didn't turn out differently, sometimes it comes with complete and utter sadness, sometimes it comes with the feeling that I want to try and get him back somehow (as crazy as that sounds, but that went on for a long time) and now I am at a place where I have accepted the sad fact that he has gone and that he is happy living with the angels, looking over me and William.
However, I never gave any consideration to those women who had lost their babies "in utero". They still feel those losses. For when a women discovers she is pregnant, it is a real rush of emotion. Excitement, for the baby to arrive; joy, for the fact you are creating a new life; a litte bit of fear, for the unknown and the changes that are to come.... But as a pregnant woman, you spend a lot of time planning. Names, prams, car seats, nursery decor, clothing, nappies, breastfeeding or bottles, how would you like to give birth, etc. You also spend a lot of time dreaming and hoping for what being a mother to this baby will be like (and most of the time, the reality is very different to those dreams!! Sorry guys, I am a realist!). When those ladies miscarry or discover their baby has died, they lose all those hopes and dreams as well, and most of the time hospitals and doctors are not very well equipped on dealing with these emotions and most often women are sent away to "get over it".
As a bereaved parent, and as I am not afraid to say that I have also lost babies prior to Harry both in early pregnancy, I know how it feels to be told that "your HCG levels are dropping and you are miscarrying" and just to be sent home, or after saying that hideous goodbye to be sent back (one day post c-section) to our room ON THE MATERNITY WARD along with all the other heavily pregnant women and mothers with their newborns. There is something missing along these lines and I want to make some changes for these women. If you have experienced a stillbirth or miscarriage I would love to hear from you about your experience, and the care you received so I can understand how others have got on and try and make a support group to help those not feel so isolated or neglected at such a crucial stage.
Anyway, I digress, it was mentioned to me by a very dear friend, that there was a service happening in Exeter Cathedral for families who had lost their babies, at whatever stage - pregnancy or neonatal deaths, run by a wonderful charity called Saying Goodbye. At first, I was unsure if it would be for me, but I had a read on their website and on their FaceBook page and it seemed to be something that I thought might be quite useful for me at this stage of my journey. I asked my mum and my nan to come along, as I didn't think it would be something Harry's Dad would have enjoyed as he is not one to show those kind of emotions in public.
We went along (running late, naturally) and I was surprised to see how many people were in the church. It hit me then. It isn't just you who feels this way.
The service contained some beautiful poems, reading and hymns, all remembering those babies who have died. It felt like a place where I was "allowed" to feel my pain and to cry, freely. It touched me to see the other couples there, being together through their grief, and I had felt guilty for thinking that Jamie wouldn't have enjoyed it, as perhaps he may have done, although he would never admit it!
The most touching part of the service for me was during a beautiful song sung by a children's choir, whose voices quite frankly were those of angels, there were handbells passed around the congregation, giving everyone a chance to mark each baby that was now in heaven, each ring of the bell marked one little life. I felt completely overwhelmed hearing these bells ringing, and thinking of all those little babies in heaven, watching down on their grieving parents. Some parents were ringing their bells 6, 7, 8 times, and one seemed like about 20. Wow. What strong people, I thought. Everybody in that church had their own story and I had been thinking that it was only me.
I want to share a poem from the service, and I hope that any mummys out their who have lost a baby at whatever stage, can find something in this poem, as I have.
I thought of you and closed my eyes
And prayed to God today,
I asked, "What makes a mother?"
And I know I heard him say:
A mother has a baby,
This we know is true
But, God, can you be a mother
When your baby's not with you?
Yes, you can, he replied
With confidence in his voice,
I gave women many babies,
When they leave it is not their choice.
Some I send for a lifetime,
And others for the day,
And some I send to feel your womb,
But there's no need to stay.
I just don't understand this God,
I want my baby here.
He took a breath,
and cleared his throat,
And then I saw a tear.
I wish I could show you,
What your child is doing Here.....
If you could see your child smile
With other children and say
"We go to earth to learn our lessons
of love, and life and fear,
but my mommy loved me so much
I got to come straight here"
I feel so lucky to have a Mom who had so much love for me
I learned my lesssons very quickly,
My Mommy set me free.
I miss my Mommy oh so much
But I visit her each day,
When she goes to sleep
On her pillow is where I lay.
I stroke her hair and kiss her cheek,
And whisper in her ear,
"Mommy, please don't be sad today,
I'm your baby and I am here".
So you see my dear sweet one,
Your children are okay.
Your babies are here in my home,
And this is where they'll stay.
They'll wait for you with Me,
Until your lessons are through.
And on the day that you come home,
They'll be at the gates waiting for you.
So now you see
What makes a Mother,
It's the feeling in your heart,
It's the love you had so much of
Right from the very start.